Currently, I’m experiencing a certain level of overwhelmedness in my head. I’m guessing it’s a result of me lagging behind constantly when it comes to the level of ambition I’m sporting, my capacity and my energy. And this week, as it turns out, another nasty cold.
When I reach a point where there is simply no way to get an overview, I usually fall back on the one method that has never failed me. The post-it solution.
I admit that I’m a post-it junkie. I adore sticky notes of all kinds. I have an almost unhealthy admiration for the dudes/ dudettes that came up with the idea. I can even remember a time B.P. – before post-its – although I don’t talk about it much (the trauma!). To me, a life without sticky notes is a limited life. Sort of like being unable to reach the internet. Although I think sticky notes are more important to me than internet*.
Anyway. Overwhelmedness. Sticky notes. Taking care of stuff. Since I’m a visually oriented person, I have a tendency to use post-its whenever I want to get something that is disorganised under control, such as my to-do lists. Or why not a user interface? Or whatever I need to deal with that has priorities and/ or an intrinsic hierarchy.
There are a couple of things that help me in this. Keep in mind, I’m an advanced post-it user! Don’t try this at ho… what am I saying? DO try this at home, especially if you feel like it might work for you. The point to remember in all this stickyness is of course that the notes detach, and then reattach meaning that you can move them around as you please. Which is the biggest plus using post-its.
Multicolored post-it notes in a size you’re comfy with. Occasionally when I’ve made UI’s for mobile phones, I’ve even cut the post-its to the same size as the screen I’m working with. That makes it easier to get an overview of how much information you can squeeze into one screen. However, keep in mind that my handwriting is very, very small. Between 6 – 8 points.
One or several good pens or pencils. Trust me, you’ll want a pen that you enjoy writing with, or that fits the size of the post-it or both.
To-do lists by color
The most important part of a to-do list on post-its is that you can sit down and write everything you need to do in one fell swoop**, no particular order. Although a system may come in handy, I’ll get back to that.
One thing to think about before sitting down and writing down stuff though – one note, one task. Don’t squeeze everything in on one sticky note. That sort of defeats the purpose of the exercise. One task, one note***, and when you’re done – throw it away. Or save it in an ever growing pile. Great satisfaction.
Organising your to-do list
Color is excellent in order to get a quick overview. One task per note gives you an idea of how much there is to do. Arranging by color and number of tasks gives me a very strong sense of how much work is left in a specific area. This is what I usually do.
1. Write down one post-it per task. I get the feel for how big a task is as I go along, breaking down what I need to do.
2. Use the same color notes for tasks within a specific project. There’s always more than one project… OR if it’s a big project with several tasks that need to be broken down even further, color coordinate within the project.
3. Use a wall or other surfaces to add your sticky notes to. Remember that the glue in some types of sticky notes can transfer to the surface if left too long though (I’m talking years, and yes, I’ve had stuff on the back burner for years…)
4. Get to work, but feel happy and productive about it! And organised. With sticky notes!
To-do list examples
Hierarchical constructions and flowcharts
As I mentioned previously, I also use post-it notes to make user interfaces. In those instances, I use post-its in a flowcharty way.
I figure that the most important part in all of this is to find out if post-it notes work for you. And if they do, use them! ****
And another note at the end
You know the way the serial killer’s notebooks looked in the movie Se7en? Or for that matter in almost any TV-series or movie about serial killers? My notebooks look like that, and my walkthrough of post-its brought that fact back to me. My point, however, is this. If you have an idea that you really like, write it down. I know that Moleskines are the hipster devil’s tools (I love Moleskines by the way) but get a notebook if you’re serious about being creative. And a notebook can be ANTYTHING from your phone’s recording app, a camera, an Evernote account or napkins you grab at a coffee shop. But make note of stuff you want to do. See a leaf you like the shape of and want to use in a project? Pick it up, stick it in a notebook or photograph it and stick it on Instagram with the appropriate (for you) tags. Personally, I’m very analogue. I like writing, I like making sense of the world in a slower fashion, mostly because that keeps my head organised. I also think a bit slower, but on the other hand, when I reach a solution, I’ve covered everything. Writing helps me think things through.
It’s possible you don’t work like that, but trust me. Documenting stuff, whether it’s in the cloud or in a notebook will help with your creativity. If nothing else, you can go back in time and look at stuff you’ve done or ideas you’ve had, and if you’re lucky, you won’t do as I do – laugh out loud at how strange my ideas were at that point and that my notebooks look like serial killer notebooks.
* No one is paying me for this, by the way…
** Although as we all know from Alistair, swooping is bad.
*** Doing this is an art in and of itself. There’s a lot of different Getting Things Done methods out there, such as pomodoro, GTD etc. My technique is a mix of doing stuff straight away, drag it out ’til the last minute and ignoring it until it goes away. That last one is not something I recommend.
**** Still not getting paid.